I Survived Part 4 - Wapello Boating Accident - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

I Survived Part 4 - Wapello Boating Accident

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John Guyer of Wapello, Iowa John Guyer of Wapello, Iowa
Guyer's hunting dog, Indiana (Indy) Guyer's hunting dog, Indiana (Indy)

Those who live in the Quad Cities know that the Mississippi River can be a source of both enjoyment and treachery. It's something an avid duck hunter from Wapello knows all too well after a life-changing experience.

"It was dark."

On the morning on November 16, 1996, John Guyer headed out onto the water to go hunting in his jon boat, fashioned with a duck blind. He saw a tow pushing some barges and decided to move out of the channel to get out of the way.

"Turned out to be a bad idea," Guyer said.

A tree was sticking out of the water, but before he could steer away from it, the boat flipped over. Somehow, Guyer managed to swim in the dark, icy water away from the duck blind and then scrambled onto the bottom of the boat. But that was not the end of his trouble.

"Uncontrollable shivers."

He later learned the air temperature at the time was 28 degrees.

"That turned out to be somewhat of an assistance in my survival because eventually, my clothes froze. Things got way better because it was a wind break," he said.

Once out of the water, his attention shifted to his hunting dog, Indy, who was trapped inside the duck blind. He heard the black lab scratching and John tried to punch a hole in the blind to free his best friend, but couldn't. He knew it would be fatal to go back into the water and under the boat.

"After I literally heard him take his last breath (chokes up) I thought, 'what am I going to do?'"

He thought about trying to swim to shore, over and over again. Every time he concluded that he wouldn't make it because the water was too cold. So, he watched and waited, hoping to flag down other hunters or fishermen. When his waving and calls for help went unnoticed for a third time, John started to lose hope.

"Talked to the man upstairs a lot."

Three hours passed and all the time, John had to stand on the boat with his back to the wind because, "every time I tried to get down and sit or kneel, the wet pants would touch my skin and I'd start shaking again."

Ironically, the same thing that put John in peril would eventually help save his life. He was spotted by a passenger on a passing tow and he knew the ordeal was over when the pilot sounded the horn.

So how did he make it under such dangerous conditions? John was a school teacher at the time, but also volunteered as a firefighter and EMT at the Wapello Fire Department. In addition, he was trained in SCUBA diving. John's convinced that training had a lot to do with his survival.

John also admits he was not wearing a life-jacket that day. Now, he never goes out on the water without one.

Not long after the accident, he started to volunteer for the Coast Guard and has since helped rescue others on the Mississippi River. As for his own experience, John says seldom does a day go by when he isn't reminded of the accident and how fortunate he was to make it out alive.

"There was so much good luck. It just wasn't my time," he added.

Read what John Guyer wrote by clicking here.

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